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Aid On Way For North Carolina Tobacco Farmers And Quota Holders

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) announced Wednesday that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun processing $129 million in emergency economic assistance payments for the nation's struggling tobacco farmers and quota holders, and that aid checks are due to be mailed on September 18.

The funding is part of a $5.5 billion agriculture aid package designed to help the nation's farmers recover from persistently low commodity prices. Congress passed the emergency assistance bill earlier this summer.

Etheridge proposed the payments to tobacco farmers in June. Under the proposal, North Carolina tobacco farmers will receive at least $37 million to help compensate them for steep reductions in tobacco quota over the last four years.

"The past four years have been especially difficult for tobacco farmers and quota holders. These payments are important to farm families who have been hurting for far too long. Tobacco farming remains vital to rural North Carolina, and these funds will be a big boost to communities that have been hit hard in recent years. I hope next year will be a brighter one for our state's tobacco farming families and that emergency assistance will no longer be necessary," Etheridge said.

Last year, Congress approved a package that included $100 million for North Carolina growers and quota holders. Two years ago, Congress approved emergency payments for North Carolina totaling $99 million.

The previous payments were designed to help compensate the nation's tobacco farmers for quota cuts for the 1999 and 2000 growing seasons.

Etheridge's plan provides compensation for the first round of steep quota cuts which occurred for the 1998 growing season, but were not accounted for in either of the prior year's payments.

Etheridge serves on the House Agriculture Committee, which crafted the legislation.

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